Road deaths add up in Waikato and Bay of Plenty

Police closed down a section of Cambridge Road on Sunday as they investigated a fatal crash. Photo: John Borren.

The year has barely begun, but the number of deaths on Waikato and Bay of Plenty roads is looking as bleak - if not bleaker - than last year, following four fatal crashes this weekend.

Two motorcyclists died at the scene of two crashes on Sunday and police say rusty skills could be a factor.

"And they were basically within 24 hours of each other," Bay of Plenty roading policing manager Inspector Brent Crowe said on Monday.

"We've had a pretty horrible start to 2019 in respect to road deaths."

This year - there's been seven.

"We've certainly got some work to do to get the balance right."

There's been six deaths in Waikato so far, a slight increase from five last year.

Those grim statistics are at odds with the rest of the country, which - with 35 deaths to date - is four down on 2018's deadliest year on the road in a decade.

On Saturday, Lawrence Webster, 66, died at a crash at Meremere Drag Raceway, Hampton Downs.

He was on the straight line quarter mile run when he crashed during a competitive meeting at the motorsport park.

Shortly afterwards, Gerald Brian Chambers, 76, died after rolling on his quad bike.

The next day, a motorcyclist died after crashing at the intersection of Sycamore Rise and Cambridge Road in Tauriko, Tauranga.

Hours later, another motorcyclist died in a separate single-vehicle crash in Whakatane.

The 24-year-old rider died at the scene.

While it's not yet clear what caused those crashes, ability is often an issue, Brent says.

"With the summer weather we're getting a lot of people heading out on motorcycles who are returning. [They] had ridden [motorcycles] 20 or 30 years ago and with disposable income are buying Harley-Davidsons and the like.

"The other thing which I'm a little bit concerned about, too, is in the summer we get a lot of riders without protective gear. Shorts, t-shirts, no jackets, no gloves, inadequate footwear.

"Heaven forbid, if something does go wrong, the tarmac is pretty unforgiving on bodies."

Fatigue, loss of control, speeding, and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs are the major cause of fatal crashes.

It's a message that's told over and over again, Brent says.

"The people we feel for are the ones that are left behind,"

And it's always "harrowing" to hear about the family who had waited up for somebody who was never coming home, Brent says.

Afternoon quickly becomes the evening, which becomes midnight - then comes the knock on the door.

"These types of deaths are something family and friends never recover from." Nyika


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